Sunshine Coast Bike Tour, Hornby Island

A lazy day of island hopping

If you take a look at a map of the Sunshine Coast region, you’ll see the drowned valleys and small islands that are markers of a submergent coastline: one where the sea level has risen to overtake the land.

In other words, lots of ferries are needed to get around.

Including two rides on the Vancouver SeaBus, I’ll have made 10 water crossings in 10 days on this trip. I should probably be calling this the Sunshine Coast Boat Tour.

Hornby has a small-town hippy vibe that I could get used to. There are signs everywhere telling cars to slow down and to watch for bikes, slow-moving traffic, and deer. What few cars there are do go slowly and there’s none of that pushy impatient driving I experienced on the Sunshine Coast. Click to find out more about cycling Hornby.

Hornby Island Life

I added two to my ferry count today because I spent the day tooling around Hornby Island, Denman’s pudgy little sister, which is only accessible via a ferry from the east coast of Denman.

Hornby has a small-town hippy vibe that I could get used to. There are signs everywhere telling cars to slow down and to watch for bikes, slow-moving traffic, and deer. What few cars there are do go slowly and there’s none of that pushy impatient driving I experienced on the Sunshine Coast.

Deep in the forests of Hornby is an intricate network of mountain bike trails that people come from all over the place to ride.

Houses are spread widely apart, nestled amongst the trees on their own little patches of heaven. Many are Arts and Crafts style, with shingle siding stained in natural colours. Others seem to have been born as summer cottages and have grown up into full-time residences.

There are lots of whimsical buildings, like octagonal houses, curvy stone and mud homes, and plenty of marine-themed cottages. Many properties have no permanent structures at all and their inhabitants live in RVs or small trailers.

Even the Catholic Church is adorably humble on Hornby.

Even the Catholic Church is adorably humble on Hornby.

Overall, it seems like the perfect place for a tiny house though it would take some effort if you ever wanted to leave home.

Long Way Round

I circumnavigated Hornby Island today, starting on the Mount Geoffrey trail. The trail clings to the hillside not far above the beach and is (almost) passable by touring bike. There are a couple of sections where I walked instead of riding, and a couple of sections where I was very glad I didn’t have all my bags.

Unless you’re up for a challenge, if you’ve got a fully loaded bike, stick to the roads.

After a slow tour of the first half of the island, I stopped in the commercial centre of town, which consists of a cluster of charming wooden shacks arranged in a rough circle. There is a clothing store, a jewellery store, a gift shop, two restaurants (one was closed) and a coffee and ice cream stand. There’s also a little bike shop, where you can rent a ride or get your own fixed up.

The Hornby Island Co-op anchors these smaller satellite shops, and takes care of the islanders’ grocery, gas, hardware, liquor, and postal needs.

Jan’s Cafe had just opened for the season and the staff were all brushing off their winter cobwebs and being trained for a busy summer to come. Despite the training in progress, the food was excellent and the WiFi fairly quick, so I settled in for a couple of hours to catch up with the outside world.

After lunch, I pedalled slowly around the second half of the island, getting accustomed to the unhurried pace of life. I spotted a few robins flittering around with fat, juicy worms in their mouths, and scared a couple of deer who didn’t notice me until I was almost upon them.

Even at my slow place, I got to the ferry dock a little early and I was tempted to pop into The Pub for a drink.

Sunshine Coast Bike Tour Hornby Island

I settled for a walk on the rocky beach instead.

Dock on Hornby Island.

Dock on Hornby Island.

In the Still of the Night

I’m back at camp now, much happier than last night because the wind is gone and the evening is perfectly still.

Fillongley Provincial Park is just feet from the endless beach. Tonight the serene water of the Georgia Straight is like a mirror reaching out to reflect the Coast Mountains which stretch as far as I can see in either direction. The setting sun has dyed the sky a soft pink.

As I walk along the beach a mink scurries past me, across the rocks and into the water.

A mink on the shores of Denman Island.

A mink on the shores of Denman Island.

He and his minky pals flip and dive through the water, searching for their dinner. Seagulls call to each other overhead and the waves roll lazily onto the rocky back. There is no human-made sound to be heard.

This is one of the most pristine places I’ve ever seen in my life. My camera could never do it justice.

A stitched-together panorama of Hornby Island as seen from Denman.

A stitched-together panorama of Hornby Island as seen from Denman. Click for a bigger version.

Later…

I am in the tent, getting all settled in for the night when I hear gunshots. At least, I think they’re gunshots.

A loud crack rings out from the south and then a few seconds later, another emanates from the north. Hunters on opposite ends of Hornby Island, shooting at each other? At night? Seems unlikely.

After a few more cracks ring through the air, I decide to go investigate.

Gratuitous shot of the water from Denman Island.

Gratuitous shot of the water from Denman Island.

I arrive at the beach just in time to hear another shot. Out on the glassy water, I just catch a glimpse of a leathery tail slipping below the surface. Another crack and another tail flips up and disappears. It’s a group of harbour seals, playing in the water, smacking their flippers so loudly it almost sounds like thunder.

Though I was kind of hoping for whales, these seals make a pretty good end to my day.  

It’s a big help when you share.

5 comments

  1. Comment by Kimberly

    Kimberly Reply May 7, 2015 at 6:10 am

    Okay – now I can’t get my mind back on my work since I’m dreaming of beautiful places after seeing your photos. Thank you!

    • Comment by Jane M

      Jane M May 7, 2015 at 9:05 am

      I share your pain, Kimberley. I am missing being out there in the world travelling! This really is a beautiful corner of the world though, and I’m lucky to be stuck right in the middle of it.

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